Bruce Lee Created His Own Style of Martial Arts — Here’s What You Need To Know About Jeet Kune Do

Bruce Lee may very well be the most influential martial artist of all time. Not only was he a popular movie star in his short time on Earth, but he was also a philosopher and a writer on the side. His ideas on martial arts and life have not only influenced regular people and athletes alike, but those ideas were also turned into a brand-new martial art. In fact, his brand-new martial art, called Jeet Kune Do, or JKD for short, may actually be the original mixed-martial art. Here’s a look at everything you need to know about Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do. 

The short life of Bruce Lee

Bruce Lee looking away from the camera, shirtless, with his arms slightly outstretched
Bruce Lee in Fists of Fury | George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Although Lee was known as a Chinese movie star, he was actually born in America. That said, his parents moved back to China a few months after his birth. In any case, this mix of two worlds is a recurring theme in his life and martial arts career. For instance, he was taught by some of the best kung fu masters in his day, including the legendary Ip Man

Despite being a great martial artist in terms of Chinese and other Asian martial arts, such as karate, he also maintained an interest in Western martial arts. For example, he was a big fan of boxing, and he even said that Muhammad Ali would kill him if the two ever fought. At the end of the day, he wasn’t interested in just kung fu, karate, or boxing, he was interested in fighting in general. This is what allowed him to create Jeet Kune Do. 

Why Bruce Lee created Jeet Kune Do 

RELATED: ESPN’s Bruce Lee Doc ‘Be Water’ Has a New Perspective on the Martial Arts Legend

The ‘Enter the Dragon’ star was an accomplished martial artist, as he had fought in actual tournaments as well as trained with some of the best teachers there were. However, he wasn’t satisfied with what he learned in those dojos and academies. As the NY Martial Arts Academy wrote, he created JKD because he felt that the martial arts that he had learned were “stale.” 

That’s because martial arts have a lot of rules that are based on traditions. This wasn’t something that was only true for the Asian martial arts that he had mastered, it was also true for Western martial arts like boxing. Lee thought that these old martial arts were teaching stuff that didn’t really matter in a real fight. For example, in boxing, you can’t punch below the belt. In real fight though, you can punch or kick wherever you want. 

As NY Martial Arts Academy said, this was a reflection of Lee’s philosophy of “be like water.” He wanted JKD to be flexible and adaptive to any combat situation. He didn’t want JKD to teach people rules that wouldn’t make sense in a real fight. As a result, JKD became, essentially, a mixed-martial art.

What is Jeet Kune Do?

As Kombat Arts said, some of JKD’s teachings can be found in the UFC, for example. JKD teaches people to be unpredictable, and this meant taking what worked from other martial arts and adding it into JKD’s arsenal. 

For example, Kombat Arts wrote that JKD teaches its students to kick their opponent on the knee since this allowed you to use your longest ranged weapon to hit the closest target. This is a weapon that UFC champions such as Conor McGregor and Jon Jones have used in the past. It’s also a weapon that Lee learned from a French martial art called Savate. 

Another example, according to Live About, is learning to fight at all ranges of combat. JKD fighters should be ready to fight with strikes, but also to wrestle and grapple their opponents. This idea is something that pretty much every UFC wrestler, such as Khabib Nurmagomedov, have learned to use in a fight.